PhDeez: Day 22: The Spectrum of Scholars.

In synthesizing the various types of research articles inherent to a Ph.D. program, this researcher has developed a qualitative measure of the linguistic approaches used by scholars in reporting their research.  Please consider the following spectrum of language found in research reporting.

On one end of the spectrum, we have Malcolm X:

maxresdefaultBrother Malcolm speaks in direct, concise language.  His thoughts have an organized, accessible logic. This logic is informed with equal parts experience and extensive references to literature and research.  He makes transparent adjustments to his prior conclusions and works to constantly improve his methods.  Moreover, X demonstrates an empathy for his audience – a study of his delivery shows his commitment to engaging the recipients of his message.

For a clear anecdotal example, consider “The Bullet or the Ballot,” a speech that defines Brother Malcolm’s poise:

 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Mojo Jo Jo:

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Mojo Jo Jo uses endless pontification in reference to insignificant concepts.  His purpose is finite: to take over the world and destroy all who oppose him – especially the Powerpuff Girls.

Here is a brief example of Mojo’s speech patterns:

The above video is salient to this researcher.  The plot of the episode is that Mojo Jo Jo is sentenced to teach English as a New Language for his nefarious crimes.  In doing so, he conditions his entire town to speak in his needlessly expanded language – language that he uses as evidence of his superior genius and onus to rule the world.  Mojo has no regard for his audience or the quality of his presentation.  Instead, he is obsessed with proving his own worth to the world.

By referring to the literature pertaining to the linguistic patterns of qualitative researchers, this educator hopes to demonstrate the applicability of this spectrum to the analysis of scholarly research.

 

PhDeez: Not Just Knee Deep – Methodologies as a “Flashlight”

In reviewing the paradigms, theories, methodologies, approaches, and genres of qualitative and quantitative research, I am learning about the nature of data collection.  All of these ideas have been universally referred to as a “flashlight” meant to focus the researcher and reader’s approach to data collection.  This researcher, of course, has only one response:

 

PhDeez: Day 3: Part 2 – My Scripts Is Doctorate, Kids, PHDEEZ!

So rather than be, literally, the 40th person in one single class (let alone my other 3 classes) to provide the same formulaic introduction – the type of introduction that absolutely no one actually gives two clicks about – I decided to rhyme.

You know whether or not a class will be dope or whack by the reactions of the students and professor to something like this:

(For now, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngrbu-0C5N8)

PhDeez: Day 3: “Never Play a Sugar In Dice.”

 

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“I’m a level 30 Rogue.  Put the money in the Bag of Holding, and no one has to feel the pain of my Dagger of Vital Organ Seeking. “

Today I was exploring mathematical reasoning.  In one explanation, I was able to reference my grandfather’s old Brownsville, Brooklyn speakeasy casino mantra: “Never play a Sugar in dice.”  In another, I explained the methods of generating Dungeons and Dragons characters with the best results out of supposedly random determination of abilities via six-sided-dice.  In a third, I explained the concept of “high/low” and progressive betting in Blackjack.

I’d say this is was a superb day of educational exploration.

 

Testing…Testing…1…

The next 3 posts will address the debate over standardized testing.  This week simply opens the issue with general comments.  Next week’s post will deal with statistics and anecdotes.  The final post will illustrate alternative assessments & varied means of implementing these tests.

Is this Pass or Fail?
Is this Pass or Fail?
Each year, NYS teachers are evaluated for their effectiveness.  60% of this evaluation comes from multiple classroom observations, performed by multiple administrators in the teacher’s school.  40% of each teacher’s score comes from a mix of standardized exams taken once a year by their students. This year, I was evaluated on my teaching methods and lesson preparation (60%) of my score.  I received an average score of “Highly Effective”, which means I am within the top 30% of teachers in terms of classroom instruction.
 
 
While many people decry the use of observations at all, I have found them to be useful in improving my skills as teacher.  I began my first year with completely Ineffective observations.  My tough administrator observed, however, that I had a great rapport with even the most hardened students in my class.  She told me to begin with my interpersonal relationships, and that my content and skill instruction will begin over time.  Clearly, this advice worked.
 
 
Moreover, observations work when the observer is knowledgeable about content, instructional skills, and the students that are being taught.  The idea is for the expert observer to provide feedback to the teacher, with suggestions on how to implement the feedback in specific ways.  Observations should never be an “aha!  Got cha! You’re FIRED!” type of situation.  From their first day to their last, a dedicated teacher will strive to get better at their job.
 
 
While typically I made no negative allowance for them, the students I teach are English Language Learners and Students With Disabilities.  I teach them the same rigorous content that I teach any other student, I just need to be more cognizant of their learning profiles.  Babying or making excuses for a student based upon disability or culture is called “soft bigotry” and does no one any favors.  While it will require additional posts to quantify a “learning profile,” it simply means that each student learns differently.  For more information immediately, consider Robert Gardner’s concepts of Multiple Intelligences:
 
We all process information in different ways.
We all process information in different ways.
 
Having said that, the reality is that my students traditionally perform abysmally on standardized exams.  Problematically (perhaps selfishly) the remaining 40% of my evaluation score is how students fare on standardized final exams.  This group of students does not do well on 3+ hour back-to-back exams that summarize their entire year of learning on how they are performing on one particular day.  They receive a pittance of “accommodations” on exams, that are not specialized to their individual learning profiles.  In order to be “highly effective”, I have to demonstrate my knowledge of each students’ individual learning profile and utilize this knowledge in my instruction.  Why then, is this not the case in exams?
 
 
The purpose of assessments (aka tests) is to inform the teacher about specific content  that needs to be taught again, and what the students retained.  Specific content refers to examples such as: the surface area of polynomials; the causes of World War 2; an author’s intentions in an argumentative essay; the processes involved with Photosynthesis.  If schools want a holistic requirement that resembles how teachers are evaluated, students should have to submit a portfolio with speaking, reading, research and writing components.  This method of evaluation is used in high-level academics, as well as actual jobs in career fields.   This type of work takes time, planning, and consultation.  Moreover, it allows all students a chance to perform work relevant to their interests, as well as explore content outside of the mandated curricula of public schooling.
 
 
Students – especially those requiring additional academic modifications – are simply not accurately evaluated over a 3+ hour battery exam.  My students contend with both the normal level of anxiety when taking said exams, but also, has to deal with additional cognitive efforts that correlate to being a language learner or having a disability. Those students whose learning profiles are keyed into taking tests will do well.  Those students who may have talents elsewhere are simply deemed less effective a student than others.
 
 
In New York, it doesn’t matter how talented you are in music, art, vocational skills, etc.  If you can’t pass a single exam on that particular day, you fail the course.  In other words, a lengthy exam manipulates courses that should be exploratory and skill-developing into test prep classes that are dissuaded from focusing on content outside of what is weighed most heavily on exams.  Students may be able to regurgitate the definitions of Communism and Capitalism, but they are not afforded an opportunity to evaluate the success of these economic systems in influencing world history.
 
 
Outside of the financial benefits to teachers being considered “highly effective,” (something which itself is controversial) we are robbing our students of the enriching experiences that they have in exploring rich academic content.  Our students are being told that unless a content, skill, or particular perspective will get them points on an exam, that aspect is a waste of their time.
 
 
Logically, how foolish is it to expect a student to be graded solely on three hours, when their academic career spans over a decade?  Even our most elite athletes lose games.  Michael Jordan has six championship rings, but even he lost important games.  There may be chart-topping musicians, beloved by everyone.  But, even they have made bad songs.  Elvis Presley is one of the most successful musicians in history, but he has songs people hate (or worse, were stolen from others in the name of “success”) We may have immensely successful investors worth billions, but even they have made bad investments.  Why, then, should we expect the evaluation of students or teachers to rely so heavily on information that is meant to encourage further instruction, rather than an end-all, be-all conclusion?
 
It's now or never.
It’s now or never.

Endangered Species

Rest In Peace.  Criminal Justice.  Public Education.  Why are these words often so closely related?

Recently, I attended a funeral of an American High School student.  His family and friends called him Tico.  He had just turned 18.

Tico was murdered by three gang members, themselves aged 16, 24, and 33.  The cause was retaliation for Tico’s own affiliation with a local gang from his neighborhood.  The three suspects have been arrested and are charged with Murder.  That’s four lives ruined in a matter of minutes.

A second student, Rodriguez, never made it to class this year at all.  He was stabbed in an alley after being set-up by a girlfriend.  He was 16 years old.  The girlfriend and her accomplice are also charged with murder.  Another 3 lives ruined.

I am in my third year here at American High School.  I have witnessed violence already: student-on-student, crowd-on-crowd, and crowd-on-student fights occur with regularity.

However, this is the first time that I have lost a student, let alone two.  I am not alone in my frustration and grief.  In Chicago, Harper High School was recently portrayed by the radio broadcast, This American Life.  At Harper High alone, 5 students were killed in a single school year, and gang violence has eroded the community’s sense of belonging (let alone public safety). The news story ends with educators from Los Angeles, Texas, New York City, Atlanta, and many other American school districts similarly lamenting the many young people whose lives ended in violence.

Education is a powerful force.  It can occur formally in a classroom, with traditional academic content.  Education also happens in our communities.  Our youth are socialized towards the values presented to them by the environments in which they are raised.  The direction of young lives can be dictated by the streets of their neighborhood as much as the halls of their schools.  Young people are attracted to organizations that they perceive as providing security and a sense of belonging.  Where resources are scarce, families are overworked (or absent) and crime is high, young people will turn to what is readily available in their communities for structure.  When the school day ends, the surrounding communities take over.  Not all influential community groups are positive, just as not all indeterminate cliques (aka “gangs”) of people are negative.

Many people have strong perspectives about education and related social policies.  Questions of how to teach, what to teach, the role of educators, and the quality and relevance of American public education are debated every day.  Parents, teachers, administrators, government stakeholders, taxpaying citizens and corporate America all have a vision for our educational system.

I am going to use this blog to honor those young people that we have lost, those that we are losing, and those that we will lose if revolutionary social changes are not made to save a species that never seems to make the endangered list.  Like all social media, this is my perspective – shaped by my experiences as a student and educator.

I invite you to follow this blog, which will be updated weekly.